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What the most creative advertising idea you’ve seen recently? 

To be entirely frank, I’ve been disappointed by the responses I’ve seen the restrictions Covid-19 has imposed and the situation we now find ourselves in. The Covid montage has quickly become a parody. It’s a shame as there was so much incredible, crowd-sourced content created, but it seemed to fall away as we continued to focus on existing expectations of what an ad should look like.

I’d been hoping to see older ideas like B-Reel's The Beauty Inside or Selfridge’s Denim Lovers inspire the industry to use this challenge as a launch pad for some really creative and engaging UGC solutions. That seems to be changing, and we’re starting to see some boards suggesting the next wave of UGC content might make the most of the possibilities at our fingertips.

It’s not strictly advertising, and while it was created pre-Covid, Jacqui Kenny’s The Agoraphobic Traveller was the most inspirational and beautiful project. As someone challenged by anxiety and agoraphobia, Jacqui’s had to deal with the challenges we’re all now experiencing under lockdown for a while, and this was an incredible creative response.

Intel & Toshiba – The Beauty Inside (Trailer)

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What website(s) do you use most regularly? 

Netflix. Because Covid. And Ozark [below].

 

What’s the most recent piece of tech that you’ve bought?

A webcam… more on the why later.

What product could you not live without?

Anything connected to the internet. So, the internet? Sounds boringly obvious. Sorry.

 

What’s the best film you’ve seen over the last year? 

World cinema seems to be in incredible health doesn’t it? Or maybe it’s just the explosion of platforms giving us so much more access and breaking down the kind of boundaries that have prevented foreign language films finding more success. It’s almost impossible to pick. So, I won’t. Instead, Knives Out was a great watch with my 10-year-old daughter, who loved it so much we’re now wading through the archives of classic Agatha Christie films. There’s something really enjoyable about watching actors running up and down the pyramids in the days before mass tourism removed so much of the romance and mystique from these places. And who doesn’t love a good whodunit?

What film do you think everyone should have seen?

We got a film club going at Sweetshop when we started working remotely, and last week’s suggestion from our Directors Assistant, Rayaan, was Roma, which I think a lot of us missed because it’s on Netflix, yet is in no way the disposable, easy-viewing style of film we often reach for when at home. It deserves to be seen by everyone.

 

What’s your preferred social media platform?

Instagram has been a constant source of positivity when that has been in such short supply.

What show/exhibition has most inspired you recently? 

That would be Jacqui Kenny’s work.


What’s your favourite TV show? 

Right now, it’s Ozark. The cast is just amazing. Although Friday Night Dinner is half an hour of senseless joy, that’s a pretty welcome outlet once a week.


What’s your favourite podcast? 

Need a laugh? Then The Dollop should be playing on your pods. Not heard of it? Then start with the story of Swansea City’s mascot, Cyril the Swan… it’s relentlessly hilarious.

What’s the most significant change you’ve witnessed in the industry since you started working in it?

I started working in advertising in 2006, and the barriers to entry into the industry, in any form, were huge. I do not want to belittle the size of the task that remains for our industry, but with so many more tools at everyone’s disposal, and platforms to exhibit your creativity, the industry is more meritocratic than it was, and so much more diverse as a result. 

I know it’s the default setting to bemoan the state of the industry’s creative output today, but watching the work young filmmakers, artists and creatives are putting out there every day, I think we’ve seen an incredible explosion of talent into our industry. We need to harness that and ensure that energy is used to push the door wide open, not just to tick a box and carry on.


If there was one thing you could change about the advertising industry, what would it be

Let’s stay within the boundaries of what’s in our own control… this time in isolation has certainly made us at Sweetshop take stock and question some of the prevalent practices within production. We’ve never had a face time culture at the company, and the global nature of the company meant we’re all familiar with working together remotely. But can we improve the work life balance of our staff, and create a happier, healthier and so more productive, more engaged team? We’re going to. 

Who or what has most influenced your career?

I think I’ve about managed to learn three key things so far…

1. Genuine talent is rare, takes time to develop and needs support and encouragement if we want to keep it in this industry. I was lucky to work with Anthea Benton [above left] at the beginning of my career. Watching the creativity and passion she brought, and how steep the hill she had to climb was, massively shaped how I see my role, which I think of as facilitating the best talent.

2. The creative process is a collaborative one. I know, I know, but it’s true. There is undoubtedly often a dominant creative voice or vision behind the best work we make, but the platform that is needed for that to be realised takes a vast amount of experience, thought, effort and care to build. If we want to be the best production company in the world, the standard of production expertise and the openness with which we engage with agencies, has to match the creative talent we represent. Philippa Thomas [above centre] taught me that.

3. Trust is everything. It took me a while to realise what my strengths and weaknesses are, and how I work best. It took far longer for me to realise that the trust I need if I’m going to perform at my best is a two-way street, and it’s true for all of us. As a boss, Spencer Dodd [above right] was thoughtful and thorough in who he worked with, and then extended his complete trust to them. It was massively beneficial to me, and something Justin (Edmund White, Executive Producer, Sweetshop UK & Europe) and I will work hard to continue.

Tell us one thing about yourself that most people won’t know.

I’m spending my Sunday mornings coaching kids rugby on Zoom… so, the webcam… it’s been brilliant and fun. It’s exhausting (and has made me really understand just what an absolute legend Joe Wicks, with his boundless energy, is), but great to see the kids every week and keep them connected. Not sure the parents are quite so keen on all the wrestling though.

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